Archives of Sexual Behavior
One in four college women experience sexual assault on campus; yet, campuses rarely provide the in-depth self-defense programs needed to reduce sexual assault risk. Further, little is known about the range of possible behaviors elicited by sexual assault threat stimuli besides assertion. To fill this gap, the aim of the current study was to explore qualitative themes in women’s intended behavioral responses to a hypothetical sexual assault threat, date rape, by using a laboratory-controlled threat. College women (N = 139) were randomly assigned to one of four different levels of sexual assault threat presented via an audio-recorded vignette. Participants articulated how they would hypothetically respond to the experimentally assigned threat. Responses were blinded and analyzed using Consensual Qualitative Research methodology. Six major themes emerged: assertion, compliance/acceptance, conditional decision making, avoidance, expressions of discomfort, and allusion to future contact. Although almost all participants described assertion, a number of non-assertive responses were described that are not currently recognized in the literature. These non-assertive responses, including compliance/acceptance, conditional decision making, and avoidance, may represent unique behavioral response styles and likely reflect the complex psychological process of behavioral response to threat. The variety of themes found illustrates the great range of behavioral responses to threat. This broad range is not currently well represented or measured in the literature and better understanding of these responses can inform future interventions, advocacy efforts, and policies focused on sexual assault.
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Anderson, RaeAnn E.; Brouwer, Amanda M.; Wendorf, Angela R.; and Cahill, Shawn P., "Women’s Behavioral Responses to the Threat of a Hypothetical Date Rape Stimulus: A Qualitative Analysis" (2016). Psychology Faculty Publications. 2.